Story

Libya: Escaping Revenge in Janzour

November 18, 2011|

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Pastor Anthony Ojiexri, an Evangelical Minister, leads his congregation of mostly Nigerian parishioners in an abandoned swimming pool. His church has become the only thing close to an effective social and political organization in the chaos of the port camp. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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The makeshift refugee camp of Janzour. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Residents fight for supplies after a chaotic food distribution. Conditions are deteriorating daily. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Distribution packages from the the Red Cross. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A Nigerian woman cooks beside a boat turned into a makeshift refugee tent. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A Liberian shaves in the camp. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A Somali drinks from a fountain in Choucha camp, an arid wasteland at the border of Libya and Tunisia and home to 3,800 people who live in rows of tents in a harsh desert. Legally recognized refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, they have been here for as long as six months, awaiting resettlement. So far only 700 spots have been made available from the international community. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A cigarette vendor doing the rounds, walking boat to boat selling single cigarettes. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Churchgoer in Pastor Anthony Ojiexeri's Sunday Service. To its members Ojiexeri's church has become the foundation of their daily lives. It is their place of worship, their social club, their dancehall, their group therapy session. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A woman collapses in pain the day after she performed an abortion on herself. Black Africans have been hiding in this port for months. Conditions are squalid and unsanitary. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A man washes his clothes underneath an abandoned boat. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Machete scars line the shoulder of an African refugee in Zanzour. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Women wait for food to be distributed in Janzour, Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A Libyan Arab fires his Kalashnikov to control the crowd during a Libyan Red Crescent food drop. "You have to use force," he told me afterward. "They are savages." Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Outside the soccer tent in Choucha camp where a rigged up television televises world soccer matches. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A boat turned into a makeshift refugee tent. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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A young man sleeps in the port. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Home-made checker board in the camp. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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The camp's youngest resident, Michael Ngerk, one year old. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

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Choucha camp, an arid wasteland at the border of Libya and Tunisia and home to 3,800 people who live in rows of tents in a harsh desert. Legally recognized refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, they have been there for as long as six months, awaiting resettlement. So far only 700 spots have been offered to them from the international community. Image by Ayman Oghanna. Libya, 2011.

The abandoned port of Janzour, outside Tripoli, is now a makeshift refugee camp. About 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans have sought refuge here, escaping, racially charged revenge attacks from Libyans, collective punishment for the Qaddafi regime's use of African mercenaries. These people are not mercenaries, but guest workers from places like Nigeria, Gambia, Benin, Sierra Leone. Bread-winners in large families, they have been living and working in Libya for years.

Some have been here for five months and counting, sleeping under broken boats. They have been assaulted and press-ganged into performing day labor for little or no money. Women have been raped and continue to complain of sexual assault and robbery. The new government has done little to improve their situation. The International Organization for Migration and UN High Commissioner for Refugees are trying to help, but these organizations have had difficulties obtaining proper documentation for those who wish to return to their home countries.